"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Week 4: Work With All Your Heart, Part 2

I think obedience is sometimes like bicycling. I have a beautiful red road bike. When I'm in good shape, I love riding on the rolling country roads around my house. There's nothing more fun than stomping on the pedals in a sprint for the next telephone pole against a field of imaginary riders. Or flying up and down little southern Illinois hills. Or just cruising along the blacktop soaking up the sun and feeling the wind against my face.

Every winter, however, I lay around the house, eating my wife's chocolate chip cookies (which are awesome), and getting soft and weak, while that beautiful red road bike sits in the garage collecting dust. When I climb back on the bike in the spring, riding is no fun at all. During those first few weeks of spring, I'm totally preoccupied with my own exertion and pain. The tired muscles. The burning lungs. The sore back side. I don't feel any fitter or stronger in the first week or the second. If I stick with it for several weeks, however, my legs and lungs adjust. My strength begins to return. I regain the joy of riding.

My assignment for this week was to work harder at my job. As soon as I arrived at my office Monday morning, I wrote Colossians 3:23 on an index card and taped it to my computer monitor. And then I worked. I worked hard. Whenever I felt tempted to walk down the hall for a chat with a co-worker or to surf over to the St. Louis Cardinals homepage, I looked at Colossians 3:23, put my head down and went back to work. I left the office every day mentally exhausted with a splitting headache. I took a few hours leave this afternoon, came home early, and did our income tax return. It felt like a vacation.

I don't feel any closer to God as a result of this week's assignment. I just feel tired.

On the way home today, it occurred to me that maybe obedience is like bicycling. And maybe the rewards of working harder will come if I stick with it for several weeks.

I also thought of Eric Liddell, who is the subject of one of my favorite movies---Chariots of Fire. The movie is based on a true story. Liddell was a sprinter on the British team at the 1924 Olympics. He famously withdrew from the 100 meter race, his best event, because it was scheduled on a Sunday. His conscience compelled him to honor the Sabbath day. Instead Liddell ran in the 400 meter race, won gold, and set a world record that stood for four years. In the movie, Liddell tells his sister, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel God's pleasure."

No doubt God gave Liddell an extraordinary gift for running. God made him fast. Like any successful athlete, however, Liddell also trained incredibly hard. As I drove home today, exhausted from my week and thinking of Eric Liddell, I appreciated for the first time that Eric Liddell would not have sensed God's pleasure in his running if he had not trained so diligently and prepared his body so well.

I think that when we begin to obey God in a new way or when we begin to practice a new spiritual discipline, we often cannot help but be preoccupied with our own exertion. We are totally focused on what we are doing, especially any pain, discomfort or inconvenience that we are experiencing. Only once our bodies, minds and spirits become accustomed to the rigors of the new routine can we begin to experience and sense what God is doing. And maybe then, like Eric Liddell, we will also feel God's pleasure.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therfore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I will myself not be disqualified for the prize. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings or sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. ~ 1 Samuel 15:22


  1. Lov The Blog! Love where God has taken your life and Love your willingness to walk transparrently! Blessings to you and yours

  2. nathan,

    I have committed to take on your blog one week at a time (with application) and I have made it to week four. Humbly, I have already seen that my commitment has plenty of room to become more committed...so one of your weeks equals like 10 days at a minimum for me.....However, I am thankful to have made it to the subject of work at a time when I have been eager to get a good "biblical" foundation for what it is suppose to look like in my day to day.

    Right now I struggle with understanding how to work it our or live it out rightly that "what I do is not who I am." Along with getting over a real religious commitment to procrastination. But reading Collosians 3:23 through a new lens now...thanks to the path you have exampled here.

    see you soon, lance